Greenbelt Restoration Work Party: June 29, 2019

From Spring Quarter of 2017 through Autumn Quarter of 2018, students from the University of Washington’s Introduction to Environmental Science class helped with the forest restoration work on our site. In fact, they were our major source of volunteers!

I was very disappointed when the teacher retired at the end of 2018; disappointed for me, not for him. I had been told that he would probably teach the class again Summer Quarter of 2019. And he is! Students from the class attended our June 29 event, our first work party of the summer.

Shirley, Claire, Dave and I served as team leaders. Sixteen students from the Introduction to Environmental Science class, friends of two of the students, and John, a neighbor who has attended almost all of our work parties participated. Two other neighbors helped for a while; one signed in participants as they arrived and another took many of the photographs.

After an orientation, the participants were divided into four groups.

There were several places on the site where our native trees, shrubs and ground covers were being overtaken by blackberry and bindweed vines as well as other weeds. This was particularly a problem on the borders of the property. Shirley’s group cleared away the invasive plants on one of the planting areas that borders the east side of the site.

Click on any of the photo galleries to enlarge the photos!

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Dave’s group worked on the upper south planting areas. There the blackberries had completely covered a debris pile that had been created when we first cleared blackberry and ivy vines from that portion of the land. Only a tiny bit of the dried debris was visible.

The group cut the blackberry vines away from the debris pile and in nearby areas and then took many loads of the dried debris to another part of the site. They carried the live cuttings to drying racks located elsewhere on the property.

John also worked in that area. With his trusty pickaxe, he cleared many blackberry vines and weeds from the southwest corner of the site.

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Generally, I focus on coordinating the event rather than leading a team. At this work party though, I lead a small team of three students. They worked on two projects. They did such a good job, even though I was only with them from time to time.

When there is a dead tree on the site, it is generally not cut down. As the tree decays, and even after it falls, it nourishes birds, animals and insects either by providing shelter or food. There was a dead shrub on this property that had grown as big as a small tree. Its branches were dropping into some of our new trees and shrubs. The first job this group did was to cut back those low hanging branches so they didn’t interfere with the growth of the new native plants.

When the students finished that project, they started clearing the blackberry vines that were growing into the planting areas along the lower part of the southern border of the site.

Claire’s group cleared bindweed and other invasive plants from an area that was also covered with native bracken ferns. Those ferns had surprised me when they emerged from the ground last year since I didn’t know they were there. They covered a lot of the native plants we had planted.

It was tricky to remove the invasive bindweed without hurting the bracken ferns or other native plants but the students did a good job of doing it. Towards the end of the work party they also removed the suckers that were coming out of two maple trees.

The work party had begun at 10:00 a.m. At 11:30 we stopped for a snack break and to take a group photo.

After the break, all of the groups continued their work. At 12:40 participants began the final tasks. They put the remainder of the invasive plants they had removed on drying racks, gathered the tools and took them to the tool box, put all the supplies away and joined together for a closing. During the closing, we celebrated all that they had accomplished during the three hour work party.

I think everyone had a good time. I sure did!

Greenbelt Restoration Site: The Plants are Growing Fast!

The Greenbelt trees, shrubs and ground covers are growing so fast. Many are flowering; some are developing fruit or seed pods. All of the photos in this post were taken in May and June of 2019.

Most of the trees are now four to five feet tall; some of them are even taller.

Another example of “fast growing” is the Elderberry shrub in the photo below. When we planted it on March 15, 2019 it was a stem with one leaf. Three months later, this is what it looked like:

Some of the elderberry plants we planted in spring of 2018 are now more than ten feet tall!

The blackberry vines, bindweed, and other weeds, are also growing fast. If you live in or are visiting the Seattle area, we could use your help in removing them. Leave a comment below if you would like more information about upcoming work parties.

Beauty in the Greenbelt: Wildlife

Photo Credit: Pixabay.com

I have been excited to see the wildlife in our restoration site increase. During a break in one of the April work parties, a student and I sat quietly on a recently-built platform. In addition to gazing at the trees, shrubs and ground covers in the planting area in front of us, I heard and saw many birds. I felt so much peace as I took in the sights and sounds.

We spent part of that work party building wood chip rings around plants. (Those rings will help keep the ground moist during the dry summer months.) In the process of building the rings, we used up the wood chips in two wood chip piles that were located on the site. At one point, when I sat on the ground near one of those areas, I noticed insects (gnats?) coming out of the remains of the woodchips. As I watched, four robins flew to the area and started feasting on them. They didn’t seem to care that I was sitting so close to them.

When I walked into the Greenbelt in mid-May, the first thing I saw was a hummingbird. Many of the shrubs we’ve planted are supposed to draw hummingbirds, but this was the first one I’d seen. In addition to the robins and the hummingbird, I’ve seen lots of sparrows, chickadees, crows, flickers, and a few blue jays.

Later that day, as I was getting ready to leave the Greenbelt, I saw a small rabbit and baby bunny in front of me. To the right of them were two robins looking for food and to the left two squirrels were scurrying around. Again, I felt a sense of peace and was very grateful to be able to witness this scene.

Single yellow swallowtail butterflies, like the one in the photo at the beginning of this post, have flown through the site for two years, but one day last month I had a quick glimpse of an orange one. I’ve also seen bumblebees, honey bees, mason bees and wasps.   

Last week there was a dead mole on one of the paths. I felt sad to see it. I don’t know how it died but was thankful that the person who was with me buried it. I know there are raccoons on the property, because I’ve seen their droppings, so maybe that is what caught and killed it.

I’ve seen rabbits several times recently. They have usually been munching on a particular type of weed. I decided to leave a patch of them for a while hoping they would stick to that diet rather than munch on the shrubs and ground covers we’ve planted. I haven’t seen any rabbits for the last week though, so maybe the weeds have gotten too tough for their taste.

A few days after I took the photo above, I saw ladybugs on the weeds. Then I noticed there were aphids. Someone recently had seen an aphid on a plant and told me that ladybugs would show up soon, because lady bugs eat aphids. I also noticed that there were three types of ladybugs on the plants. I wondered if these were actually the same type of ladybug but were at three different stages of development; i.e., baby, youngster, mature.

I’ve tried to take photos of the rabbits, birds and squirrels, but they almost always take off before I can get a shot. Probably if I sat down and quietly waited, I would be able to take more photos, but when I sit down, I usually see weeds that need to be removed so continue with that never-ending task.

Yesterday I saw the bug in the photo below, a large dark black beetle and a dark black centipede. Several days before, I had seen an unfamiliar winged insect.

I love watching the many forms of wildlife. I hope my descriptions give you a taste of the excitement and the peace I feel as I witness them moving into our Greenbelt site.

Beauty in the Greenbelt: Oceanspray

We’ve planted more than a dozen oceanspray shrubs in our forest restoration site. Some of them may have had a few blossoms last year, but many more have them this year.

This week I saw oceanspray shrubs in other Seattle parks that were 13 feet high and nearly as wide. It will be interesting to see how big the ones in our restored forest grow.

FOTD

Beauty in the Greenbelt: Bleeding Heart

One of my favorite Greenbelt flowers is the bleeding heart flower; they are so small and delicate. On June 9, I took what I think is an amazing photo of one of those plants.

To me it looks like a bleeding heart flower birthing a seed pod. I look forward to learning how and when to harvest and spread the seeds. Even more, I look forward to seeing a lot more bleeding heart flowers in our Greenbelt restoration site next spring!

FOTD

Beauty in the Greenbelt: Bald Hip Rose

This spring has been very exciting for me. We planted our first trees, shrubs and ground covers in November of 2017. This year most of those plants had a tremendous growth spurt. Several species bloomed for the first time. One of those was this bald hip rose shrub.

April 2019

The beginning of the path between the Mt. Baker light rail station and the Hanford Stairs is lined with bald hip rose shrubs.

One day in late May, this is what I saw as I was walking home from the Mt. Baker station.

I realized I was getting a glimpse of what our Greenbelt site is going to look like in a few years. WOW!

FOTD

Service-Learning Work Parties: May 6, 13 and 20, 2019

On May 6, the UW students came for their fifth service-learning experience. Most weeks Shirley, one of our team leaders, and I both work with the students. This week Shirley was not available. The rest of us weeded four planting areas (2050 sq. ft.) and put wood chip rings around 90 trees, shrubs and ground covers in the eastern part of the site. The wood chip rings hold in moisture thereby increasing the chance the plants will survive during a dry summer.

On May 13, Shirley was back. Once again, we weeded and put wood chip rings around plants, this time in the northwest part of the site. These areas had many more weeds than the places where we had worked on May 6. At this work party, we weeded 3705 sq. ft. and built 116 wood chip rings. I’m sorry I didn’t take photos that day; but am glad that Shirley took a few.

However, the next day I did snap photos of some of the planting areas where we had worked. I thought they looked so beautiful.

May 20 was the last service-learning session. Shirley and I decided the group would spend the whole time working on the new site across Cheasty Boulevard. We had begun to clear bindweed and other invasive vines from that area on April 29. This was what the land looked like before and during the April 29 work party.

(You can enlarge the photos in any of the galleries by clicking on the gallery.)

We had done so much clearing on April 29. I was shocked when I visited that site two days before the May 20 work party. While some of our previous work was still visible, the bindweed was already on shrubs we had rescued at the earlier work party, and the bindweed we hadn’t pulled then had grown at an unbelievable rate.

I knew there was no way we would be able to remove all of the bindweed, ever; I’ve read that the roots can go down 32 feet! But we would clear away as much of it as we could.

I was surprised to see that many of the bindweed roots were woven together like a lattice. However, since the group that had planted the shrubs, years ago when the lower part of the Hanford Stairs were built, had covered the area with wood chips, the roots were more surface than I’ve ever seen before. To see what I mean by long roots, be sure to take a look at the last photo in the gallery below!

We filled bucket after bucket with the vines. Once the buckets were full, we emptied them on the drying racks along Cheasty Blvd that we had built last summer. (I took the photo of the drying rack four days later than the work party, so the bindweed was already wilting.)

We spent the last hour of the work party spreading wood chips on the part of the site we had cleared.

I have no illusion that the bindweed is gone but there is sure a lot less of it and the land we cleared looks wonderful. We had removed the bindweed from the area around three salal shrubs and two snowberry shrubs and circled them with wood chip rings. A few days later, I saw mushrooms had emerged from the ground a little lower on the site.

What a wonderful and productive last service-learning session we had. I feel very grateful to the students for all they have done during the last seven weeks. Because of their work, our Greenbelt restoration site is so much more prepared for the dry summer months.